In specifying any automatic fire detection and alarm solution, a balance has to be struck between ensuring the earliest possible detection and keeping unwanted alarms to a minimum.
This will be different in each case. For example, a small-scale manufacturer operating on tight margins will need a flexible, cost-effective response that can provide protection against a range of differing fire hazards, in what is often a fluid, changing environment.
By contrast, a robust networked solution that enables rapid, controlled evacuation will be better suited to an education, healthcare or retail environment with multiple buildings and large numbers of staff and visitors.
However, there are some important common denominators. For example, a solution that is intuitive and easy to use will ensure that security and facilities management staff using a wide variety of equipment on different sites can operate each system effectively and with the minimum amount of training.
Also, by opting for equipment based on a flexible multi-protocol approach, the business can choose between systems and installers, potentially securing a lower price. Equally importantly, it ensures flexibility in the choice of maintenance provider.
Picking the right fire safety system poses particular problems for building operators with little health and safety infrastructure or expertise. They have to find a system that will protect people and contents, while ensuring legal compliance by providing evidence that all reasonable protective measures have been taken in the event of a fire-related incident.
A responsible person
Such responsibilities are significant. The current Regulatory Reform (Fire Services) Order 2005 (RRO) provides for minimum fire safety standards and emphasises the duty of ‘the responsible person’ to ensure that an appropriate risk assessment has been carried out.
The responsible person must ensure that the life safety system provides the highest-quality coverage and that the designer and the installer of that system are competent. Similarly, the responsible person must ensure that the equipment utilised is approved by a third party.
To demonstrate competence, the designer, installer and maintainer of any system must also be able to demonstrate that they have the necessary professional knowledge and skills, from both the relevant manufacturers and the FIA.
Unlike most general electricians, a designer, installer and maintainer of fire safety systems with independent accreditation such as BAFE SP203 will be able to demonstrate competence at all levels. This includes ensuring that all the parts are compatible and that the system is suited to the environment.
Using an approved product and accredited installer has the obvious advantage of bringing industry expertise to the purchase. And in reality, it is the only sure way for the end-user to firmly guarantee the efficiency and reliability of the alarm system that they have purchased.
Keith Minster is sales manager at Morley-IAS-by-Honeywell